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Monday, June 6, 2022

Some Last Words and More on Frank Atwood Before He Faces the Death Penalty


In September 1984, Frank Atwood, the son of a prominent military man who got involved in gangs and fell into drugs, was arrested for the murder of 8-year-old Vicky Lynn Hoskinson. The evidence for his innocence are many. However, a pink scratch on his vehicle, which matched the color of the little girl's bike, sent him to jail. He was sentenced to death and has been held in Arizona prisons for 34 years. However, he never stopped pleading innocent.

"I tell you from the bottom of my heart, I am innocent of this crime."

Inside the cell for years, Frank studied law and theology, until he accidentally discovered the existence of the Metropolitan of Limassol Athanasios, who was then abbot of the Machairas Monastery in Cyprus.

According to Metropolitan Athanasios:

"A book had been written by a Cypriot University professor, Kyriacos Markides, called The Mountain of Silence. My name and Frank were mentioned in this book. He discovered the Monastery of Panagia Machairas and of course he sent me a letter. And from there began the correspondence between us, which ended in his baptism as an Orthodox Christian."

Frank, who is a Jew, took the name Anthony in the year 2000. With the help of Elder Ephraim in the Arizona desert, he found - as he says - the light in his soul. So did Rachel… an unknown girl who, moved by his story, wanted to support him. She was baptized also a Christian, named Sarah, and eventually married him.

Their struggle is common, always accompanied by the Metropolitan of Limassol. He encouraged Frank while he was in prison to write his autobiography with Rachel, and after ten years he completed it and it was published in Greek.

"I went twice and saw him. The third time I went to America a year ago, I was not allowed to see him, unfortunately."

34 years later and just a few days before the death sentence is carried out, Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol remains steadfast regarding his innocence.

"On this issue he was sentenced to death, I am sure he did not do it, because he confessed to me that he did not do it. Frank did other nonsense, and other crazy things, of course, before he knew Christ, before he entered into repentance."

Frank is expected to be executed with lethal injection on June 8, as the Arizona Supreme Court issued an execution order in his name a few days ago. On June 8, Frank Atwood will be the second prisoner to be executed in 2022 after an 8-year period of cessation of executions in this US state, due to the storm of reactions caused by the death of the murderer Joe Wood in 2014.

Speaking to journalist Dimitris Stroumbakos, Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos revealed a large part of the Letters sent to him by the death row inmate, who from the day of his arrest claims that he is innocent of this crime, with his main concern being repentance and paradise, while still talking about the way he came to know Orthodoxy and was baptized a Christian.

His Eminence talks about how they came in contact, what role Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol played in it and reads part of the letters, telling the story of Anthony, or Frank Atwood, who is preparing to be led to his death on June 8th (unless something shocking changes by then).

"The only true path to the pursuit of the inner search was Orthodoxy. It was exactly what I was looking for," Atwood wrote after reading Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos' Orthodox Psychotherapy, and explains how he was baptized.

"Unfortunately, my repentance has become volatile and imperfect," he says, describing that period of his life a little below and showing real concern for his spiritual state, something few of us do. In the correspondence, for example, he reveals that he confesses to Elder Paisios every two weeks, and part of his rule was to do 300 prostrations a day before Christ and 200 prostrations a day before the Mother of God, as well as doing various daily services, which includes all the hours. Now he is in a wheelchair.

"We (he and his wife) ask for prayer for humility and patience, to go through the terrible tollhouses," he writes, without asking for prayer for innocence, but for procrastination so that he may be given the necessary time to repent before appearing before Christ.
 



On May 26, 2022, Frank gave a final statement:

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address you. My name is Frank Atwood and I am going to be executed by the State of Arizona at 10:00 am on June 8, 2022.
   
I am doomed to die for a crime I did not commit, but I will let the evidence put forward by the experts and the arguments put forward by my lawyers speak to my innocence.
 
Because this is my last chance to address any team, it is my intention to speak from the bottom of my heart as honestly and truthfully as I can.

Because I belong to the Greek Orthodox Church, I have absolute confidence and faith in the fact that my soul will live forever in Paradise with the Lord Jesus Christ, whom I came to know, obey and love. I will finally free myself from the earthly bonds that have crippled my body and are causing me excruciating pain.

And I will no longer live in a world in which others suffer from my own existence.
   
To Vicki Lynn Hoskinson's family, I can honestly say that while I know you will never believe I did not abduct her, I did not! This, however, does not change the fact that your pain is as real as it can be with anything else in this life, and my deepest prayer is that my death will give you and your loved ones some form of relief and closure to your endless misery and torment.

I will leave this world with gratitude and love in my heart for some very special people. To my beloved wife of thirty years, Sarah, who accompanied me in good and bad times, my devoted companion to the Greek Orthodox faith, the love of my life and my best friend ... I love you and thank you.

Also to my spiritual father, Elder Paisios, who shepherded me lovingly for the last decades to obey Christ's commands, towards purification and illumination. My elder, my love for you goes beyond any expression. Also in the Greek Orthodox Church and many Monasteries throughout Cyprus, Greece and the USA, your constant prayers have supported me and until my last breath I will continue my prayers for you and I ask your prayers to help me when I pass through the tollhouses.

Special mention to the originator of my return Home (in the Church), Metropolitan Athanasios, my enlightener, to Metropolitan Hierotheos, also to Elder Nikodemos, to Father Filaretos and to the monk Sophronios.

I should also mention my friends and my legal team. Sam, Evan, Joe, David and Amy, who are my tireless representation against the mechanism of death in society. Your support was amazing and deeply appreciated. My friends Nikos and Panos, I wish God richly bless your goodness, thank you! Finally, some supporters, such as Michael Zoosman, with "L'Chaim, Jews Against the Death Penalty" and Abe Bonowitz, with "Death Penalty Action". Well done on my behalf and on behalf of the death row inmates for your endless struggle. I would also like to thank Eleni and Bishop Epiphanios.

In closing, I would like to ask all of humanity to pray to Christ to have mercy on us, to give us the mercy we desperately need because of our tragic lack of prayer and repentance. Thank you for allowing me to address you today. Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me.




Judge rejects Arizona prisoner’s bid to delay execution

By JACQUES BILLEAUD
Associated Press.
June 5, 2022, 4:02 PM ET

A judge has denied an Arizona prisoner’s bid to delay his execution in the 1984 killing of an 8-year-old girl.

PHOENIX -- A federal judge has denied an Arizona prisoner’s bid to delay his execution in the 1984 killing of an 8-year-old girl, according to the ruling posted Sunday.

U.S. District Judge Michael Liburdi’s decision keeps on track Wednesday’s scheduled execution of Frank Atwood, who argued the state’s death penalty procedures would violate his constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment by subjecting him to unimaginable pain.

His lawyers said Atwood, who has a degenerative spinal condition that has left him in a wheelchair, would undergo excruciating suffering if he were strapped to a gurney while lying on his back during his lethal injection execution.
Liburdi said in the ruling made Saturday that he would not block the execution based on Atwood’s claim, noting that the state will provide Atwood with a medical wedge that will relieve pressure on his spine and can also tilt the execution table. He said those accommodations “will minimize the pain Plaintiff experiences when he lies on his back.”

The constitution, Liburdi wrote, “does not require a pain-free execution,” and that Atwood’s position will be similar to what he typically assumes in his cell to limit pain.

Liburdi also rejected challenges to the drug the state plans to use and dismissed Atwood’s claim over the Arizona’s use of the gas chamber, saying it was irrelevant because he will be executed using lethal injection.

The challenge to his method of execution is one of a flurry of last-minute appeals by Atwood. He’s also asking the Arizona Supreme Court to delay his execution while his lawyers pursue claims that he is actually innocent of killing the little girl. That court denied a stay late last week, but is now considering the new claim.

And his lawyers continue to spar with the state over religious accommodations prior to and during his execution. He has been a practitioner of the Greek Orthodox faith for more than two decades and wants the state to allow him to undergo a religious initiation ceremony before the execution and receive last rites while in the execution chamber. The state has mainly agreed, but the two sides are at odds over exact details. A different federal judge is overseeing that matter.

“The state’s insistence on cyanide gas is a cynical choice to force the acceptance of the danger and incompetence of its lethal injection method, at the cost of embracing Nazi methods of mass extermination,” Joseph Perkovich, an attorney for Atwood, said in an email Sunday.

Atwood was convicted of murder in the 1984 killing of Vicki Hoskinson.

Authorities have said Atwood kidnapped the girl, whose remains were discovered in the desert northwest of Tucson nearly seven months after her disappearance. Experts could not determine the cause of death from the remains that were found, according to court records.

Atwood maintains that he is innocent of the crimes.

Until last month, Arizona went almost eight years without carrying out an execution. The hiatus has been attributed to the difficulty of securing lethal injection drugs as manufacturers refuse to supply them and to problems encountered during the July 2014 execution of Joseph Wood, who was given 15 doses of a two-drug combination over nearly two hours. Wood snorted repeatedly and gasped before he died. His attorney said the execution had been botched.

The hiatus ended on May 11 when the state executed prisoner Clarence Dixon for his murder conviction in the 1978 killing of Deana Bowdoin, a 21-year-old Arizona State University student.

As part of Atwood’s argument to get his execution delayed, his lawyers questioned whether the compounded pentobarbital to be used in the execution meets pharmaceutical standards and whether the state has met a requirement that the drug’s expiration date falls after the execution date.

Prosecutors say Atwood was trying to indefinitely postpone his execution through legal maneuvers.

Two weeks ago, Atwood declined to choose between lethal injection or the gas chamber, leaving him to be put to death by lethal injection, the state’s default execution method.

Arizona, California, Missouri and Wyoming are the only states with decades-old lethal-gas execution laws still on the books. Arizona, which carried out the last gas chamber execution in the United States more than two decades ago, is the only state to still have a working gas chamber.

In recent years, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Alabama have passed laws allowing executions with nitrogen gas, at least in some circumstances, though experts say it’s never been done and no state has established a protocol that would allow it.

Atwood’s lawyers also said Arizona could take up executions by firing squad, a method of execution not used in the state.
 


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